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Mental maps, frameworks and the plumbing of the brain

“Cognitive scientists are finding that people’s mental maps, their theories, expectations, and attitudes, play a more central role in human perception than was previously understood,” as explained by David Rock and Jeffrey Schwartz, “The Neuroscience of Leadership,” Strategy + Business, Summer 2006 at 76 (See my posts of Sept. 10, 2005 on mental models and frameworks; Sept. 22, 2005 on mental models and decisions; and Oct 1, 2005 on efficient and effective as mental models.).

One study cited in the article found that sudden bursts of high-frequency gamma waves appear in the brain just before moments of insight. This energy appears to create links across parts of the brain. The same study found the right anterior superior temporal gyrus being activated. This part of the brain is involved in perceiving and processing music, spatial and structural relations (such as those in a building or painting), and other complexities of the environment.

The findings suggest that at a moment of insight, a complex set of new neural connections is being created. These connections have the potential to enhance our mental resources and overcome the brain’s resistance to change. When people solve the problem themselves, the brain releases a rush of neurotransmitters like adrenaline. If you want people to change their behavior in a law department, help them to come to their own insights.

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